BWW Feature: CHARLOTTE'S WEB Performed By the CHILDREN'S THEATRE OF CHARLESTON Is Coming To the CIVIC CENTER LITTLE THEATER!

BWW Feature: CHARLOTTE'S WEB Performed By the CHILDREN'S THEATRE OF CHARLESTON Is Coming To the CIVIC CENTER LITTLE THEATER!

Charlotte's Web - the beloved children's book and feature film - is heading to the Little Theater stage in Charleston, WV. Presented by The Children's' Theatre of Charleston (CTOC), the show is sure to enthrall both the young and the young at heart as they watch this moving and humorous tale about friendship and loss.

I had a chance to speak with both the Director, Susan Marrash-Minnerly and the Assistant Director, Natasha Allen about the show, what led them to work with CTOC and what audiences could expect from this production.

Susan Marrash-Minnerly, when asked why she believes that this story has resonated throughout the years, explained that, "I think there are several reasons. The most superficial being that it is about the unlikely friendship of a spider and a pig - not unlike Miss Piggy and Kermit." She went on to explain that the show is, "about true, unselfish friendship and that you would do anything to help a friend in need without regard for yourself." The story deals with multiple issues, which many audience members can identify with, such as loss. "It is a comforting story about life and death," said Marrash-Minnerly.BWW Feature: CHARLOTTE'S WEB Performed By the CHILDREN'S THEATRE OF CHARLESTON Is Coming To the CIVIC CENTER LITTLE THEATER!

Audience members who have grown up watching the film and reading the novel need not fear that the stage production will be drastically different. "The stage production is very similar to both the original book and the movie," said Allen, which Marrash-Minnerly agreed with, stating that, "(the show) is very faithful to the original book by E.B. White." By expanding on the original story, the stage production brings to vivid life these characters and allows audiences to have a strong emotional investment in the show.

Of course, there are some differences. "Any stage production is a vastly different experience than seeing something on the screen," explained Marrash-Minnerly. "The feedback loop between the play and the audience is unlike anything else. What makes this production unique? For one thing, the excellent costumes by Kit Reed." Reed worked closely with Marrash-Minnerly to convey a specific tone and time period. "I have set the play in the mid-1950s and Kit has unified the costumes by using quilt blocks made by local quilters in Charleston, WV. Each character in the play has a quilt square designed specifically for him/her. There are also three chorus members who provide a lot of narration for the play." Marrash-Minnerly acknowledges that narrators can be a risky move. "I generally think that narration on stage is dull and I have tried to give them a little more life by making them a girl group called the Spinerettes."

BWW Feature: CHARLOTTE'S WEB Performed By the CHILDREN'S THEATRE OF CHARLESTON Is Coming To the CIVIC CENTER LITTLE THEATER!

Natasha Allen and Marrash-Minnerly, both veterans of theater, explained what led them to work with The Children's Theatre of Charleston and this production.

"I started working in children's theater a few years back with my first show as Production Stage Manager being Ferdinand the Bull at the Cleveland Playhouse," said Allen. "I fell in love with children's theater because of the way it gives a unique outlet for children to learn skills, to make long-lasting friendships and to gain confidence within themselves." This is Allen's second show with CTOC, the first being last year's Peter Pan, Jr.

BWW Feature: CHARLOTTE'S WEB Performed By the CHILDREN'S THEATRE OF CHARLESTON Is Coming To the CIVIC CENTER LITTLE THEATER!Marrash-Minnerly was brought in to the CTOC family through a relationship formed while working on another production. "Kit Reed designed the costumes for the final production I directed at West Virginia State University, The Good Woman of Setzuan." Marrash-Minnerly had retired from her position as a theatre profession at State University in May of 2017. "Kit is an excellent costumer and I enjoyed the process of working with her and Mandy Shirley (Wardrobe) very much. I thought if everyone at CTOC was as pleasant to work with as they were, it would be a good experience."

Despite the expertise both Marrash-Minnerly and Allen bring to the show, it would not work if not for the children. "Working with children is an excitement of its own," said Allen. "Seeing all their ideas and imagination come to life is breath-taking. Our children are smarter than you think and come up with the most interesting thoughts and ideas." Allen explained that, "the cast comes with a mixture of actors who have either done a show before or this is their first time on stage." The combination of experience and lack of experience makes for an interesting dynamic with the newcomers learning from the more veteran child actors. "It is amazing how well they have grown from their first days of rehearsal to our final days of rehearsals."BWW Feature: CHARLOTTE'S WEB Performed By the CHILDREN'S THEATRE OF CHARLESTON Is Coming To the CIVIC CENTER LITTLE THEATER!

Marrash-Minnerly agreed, "It has been a very long time since I directed children and I am constantly amazed at the imagination and creativity of them!"

Praise didn't end with the children though, as Allen took time to acknowledge the work of the dedicated crew who make this, and all CTOC shows, work. "We have a great group of individuals working together to make this show a great one: props, sets, costumes, lights and sound, our parent backstage helpers and our production team." Allen excitedly added, "I can't wait for you to see this wonderful story brought to life."

CTOC sets aside days where productions are performed solely to the local schools and these shows are some of Allen's favorite productions. "Children are some of the best audiences. Their reactions to the stage performances is quite different than those of adults." Allen explains that, "most schools have the children study the book or play before they see it on stage. I imagine how excited they must be when they come and see something they have studied or something maybe they remember seeing in a movie played out with real life characters and events right before their eyes."

BWW Feature: CHARLOTTE'S WEB Performed By the CHILDREN'S THEATRE OF CHARLESTON Is Coming To the CIVIC CENTER LITTLE THEATER!Schools wishing to participate in the school only performances of this production or future CTOC productions can find more information at http://www.ctoc.org/schools. School performance dates are October 4th and 5th, 2018 at 9:15 AM and 11:00 AM.

Public performances will be held on October 5th, 2018 at 7:00 PM, October 6th, 2018 at 2:00 PM and 7:00 PM and October 7th, 2018 at 2:00 PM. All performances will be held at the Charleston Civic Center Little Theater located at 200 Civic Center Drive in Charleston, WV 25301. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at www.ctoc.org.

Richard Allen is a freelance writer for various publications. He can be contacted at richardallenwrites@gmail.com or at facebook.com/richardallenwrites

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